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After hitting a record high in the second quarter, the number of U.S. corporate ratings downgrades fell to its lowest level since Q4 2018, according to S&P Global Ratings.

By the numbers: S&P lowered 107 U.S. corporate issuer credit ratings in the third quarter — 74% fewer downgrades than in Q2, as upgrades nearly doubled to 43.

  • "Downgrades abruptly slowed and upgrades increased as U.S. GDP rebounded in the third quarter," said Nick Kraemer, head of S&P Global Ratings Performance Analytics, in a statement.

One level deeper: Downgrade risk as measured by negative bias (the percentage of issuer credit ratings with negative outlooks or on CreditWatch with negative implications) for U.S. speculative-grade companies fell by 5 percentage points to 47%.

  • Meanwhile, the negative bias for investment-grade companies held nearly unchanged at 26%.

Go deeper

Survey: CEO confidence soars above pre-pandemic levels

Data: Business Roundtable; Chart: Axios Visuals

CEO confidence rebounded above pre-pandemic levels this quarter, according to a survey of 150 chief executives of the largest U.S. companies by lobbying group Business Roundtable.

Why it matters: The index, which is still below the record high seen in the wake of Trump's corporate tax cuts, reflects corporate America's expectations for sales, hiring and spending — which hit rock bottom when the pandemic hit. Now CEOs are feeling even better than before the coronavirus roiled the economy.

Fintech's record year

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Massive venture rounds into fintech companies have ballooned this year, pushing up total dollars invested — in just the first three quarters of 2021 — to nearly double the amount in all of 2020, per new PitchBook data.

Why it matters: The maturing of fintech startups means a growing number of companies are able to raise huge later-stage funding rounds as investors look to lock-in their bets.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Democrats' clean power outlook is very muddy

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Here are two big questions as a key Democratic proposal to slash emissions from power generation flounders: how much its demise would sap climate protections, and what might replace it.

Catch up fast: New financial carrots and sticks for utilities to deploy zero-carbon power — the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) — look unlikely to stay in Democrats' big social spending and climate bill.